Chemistry: alumna Vanessa about her experience

Why did you decide to study at HZ?

"It is no secret that I needed to leave my country (Venezuela) to find a better future somewhere else. I was only looking at universities in Spain because I was not confident enough with my English to do a whole career in this language. Luckily, I met a counsellor who guided me the right way (since she had already sent several students to the Netherlands). I told her that my passion was Chemistry, but that even though I enjoy the theory, I wanted to learn how to do things myself. I wanted to learn how to work in a lab, how to use chemicals and how to perform analysis. Due to this, my perfect fit had to be a university of applied sciences.

At that time, HZ was the only one that was international enough to offer the Chemistry programme in English, so I ended up in the right place at the right time. The programme was right, the location (next to the sea) was right, I met some other Venezuelans that were already at HZ or coming to HZ during the same or the following year. I strongly believe I made all the right choices and ended up at a place that helped me considerably boosting my career."

Why did you choose this specific study programme ?

"To be honest, I had some doubts about the programme when I saw how many biology-related courses I had (I was not a fan of the topic at that time). But when the courses started, I saw how the Chemistry and Biology courses complemented each other. In the end, everything together made perfect sense, and I even started liking those topics that I did not want to have to do again after high school. I always thought that the number of practicals we had at HZ was perfect. I finally felt I was learning how to properly work in a lab! Unfortunately, even though I went to a good high school, the lab equipment found in Venezuelan schools is very poor, and the practical knowledge I had gained was limited. Finally, at HZ, I had a place with many modern devices and many opportunities to develop those skills that later on, I came to learn how crucial they are. It is extremely important for companies that you know how to properly work in a lab!"

How was it to study abroad?

"Studying abroad is definitely a challenge. In my case, I was so far away from my friends and family, I travelled alone across the ocean to start a new life when I was only 17 years old, of course, it was not easy. But after all, I have been through, I can surely say it was the best decision I have ever made. Coming to HZ gave me the future that my country could not give me, I am thankful every day with all the people who helped me get to where I am today."

What did you think of studying in zeeland, the netherlands?

"I consider that studying in Zeeland is quite handy. Vlissingen is not a big city, which means there are no constant distractions, and I was able to focus more on my studies. Nevertheless, summers were amazing since the beach was a perfect place to relieve the stress from exams and deadlines. Although I would have really liked to explore more of Zeeland, luckily for the new students, I have seen that HZ is organizing many activities in order to show them the beauty of this province."

What was the most valuable part of your studies?

"The most valuable part of my studies was the opportunity that HZ gave me to join the ASTP (Analytical Science Talent Programme). Thanks to this, I have had amazing opportunities during my studies, for example, I was the first bachelor undergraduate to give a presentation at the FAST conference. This was an amazing honour that I would not have been able to accomplish without the education I was given.

I chose to specialize in Applied Chemistry, that was clear for me from the beginning. But I am aware that it is possible to choose both specializations if you are indecisive or if you simply like both, which I consider is a great opportunity that HZ offers."

Tell us about your internships and your minor? how did you experience these semesters?

"My internships were very interesting periods. As being part of the ASTP, I chose to do a second internship instead of a minor, which was the smartest choice for my career. I had the amazing opportunity to work at Corbion for 6 months and at DSM for 1 year (internship + thesis). These are great companies from which I learned so much. I got assigned quite difficult projects in the area of Research & Development. Even though the projects were of high level, I was determined enough to be able to complete them successfully. Here I learned how important all the practicals at HZ were. My supervisors were impressed by how well I was trained and how independent I was in the lab. I knew what to do, how to do it and how to ask for help (which is also an important skill that many people lack)."

What did you do after graduation?

"Directly after graduation, I got a job in a start-up called Hair Diagnostix. Here, we use the mass spectrometry imaging technique to analyse hair. This is very new in the field and quite a challenge, which is what I like. I am a Lab Engineer in charge of the quality control in the lab. Working in a start-up is not easy, there is a lot to do and a lot to learn, but luckily, I was given the knowledge and practice I needed during my studies to be able to do a great job and move the company forward."

What would your advice be to a student applying to hz?

"To new students applying to HZ, I would tell to not miss this opportunity because if I had to go back, I would choose HZ again."

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